Snap Happy

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the week, letting the trivial work, chore, errand messiness fog your happy goggles, especially if you’ve had a doozie of one. More and more these days I think about how happiness should permeate every area of your life, no matter what, although I’m not quite sure how to completely block out the messiness that spills into our happy. Realistically we get pissed. Let’s be honest, we’re human and things have a way of working in, no matter how positive we try to stay. One thing that I’ve taken note of as having an everlasting positive affect on my well-being: pictures. It’s a way to capture a moment of enjoyment, of deliciousness, of creation, of love and carry it with you.

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Little things are snap worthy, as long as enjoyment follows. Take this shot, from last weeks menu selection. In an effort to eat vegetarian one to two times a week, I made white bean burgers, with jalapeño cheddar, baked zucchini and Omaha Steak potato cakes. A pretty simple meal that we cooked together, which happens to be the best way, in my opinion, to end your day; creating a meal with someone who enjoys the art of feast ad much as you. Then we have the below, yet another tasty meal caught in image form, cause sometimes you just need a little spice! (Spicy Thai shrimp with rice noodles & snap peas!)

Sometimes, it’s a moment that takes your breathe away, something that stops you in your tracks (and not much does now a days, lets be honest!). If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t have to look hard for these moments, you can find beauty in the simple things…a bleeding sky from a sinking sun, a rainbow after a short rain storm, the fabulous meal you just prepared.

Revel in the small moments that bring a smile to your lips and if you’re lucky, your camera will capture a portion of that!

Backyard Brews

One of my favorite things to do involves checking out new local spots (or at least new to me!). I’m really not picky, needing just a few key points to entice me:

  • Relatively close in proximity to our house (30-40 minutes)
  • Unique in some way, offering a fresh outtake
  • Full of good food & spirit.  

Well happy Friday!

Mike and I ventured locally to a new brewery just a hop, skip and a Harley ride away in Ambler a few Friday’s ago and found all of the above. Tucked behind the main drag, looking more like someone’s house-warming, stood an old Victorian, now converted into the dearest little brewery ya ever did see! Forrest & Main Brewing Company  overflowed with people Friday, but the welcoming ambiance felt more like a friends living room rather than a new restaurant, complete with a baby playing on a quilt spread out in the front yard. The bar/living room housed old-fashioned sconces, chandeliers and beautifully refinished hard-wood floors. We nestled in after ordering two cask beers and knew we had found a treasure! Hell, they had bacon popcorn on the menu!!

Waiting for an outside table proved to be the right move cause we were sitting just as the sun was setting. A picturesque setting for anyone looking for a little different. Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to go far! Cheese plate with pickled veggies completely hit the spot, with the vinegary munchies just right, paired with whole grain mustard and sharp cheddar cheese. The perfect compliment to the gorgeous evening’s adventure.

We are truly lucky to live so close to so many local gems…makes our adventures plentiful!

Goin’ to Carloina

It’s what we were doing on Memorial Day weekend, plus one of James Taylor’s most beautiful songs!  This weekend not only kicks off one of the greatest seasons, but means a long weekend and a built in day off for those of us who yearn to get away. So where to? With a sister down in Charleston, South Carolina, the answer was simple: we were heading south!

Destinations:
Charleston, for a carriage ride and historical tours
Magnolias
Folly Beach
Fort Sumter
Magnolia Plantation
Hanks Seafood

The road trip started at 4:30 am, Thursday, May 24th. With two huge coffees in hand, we ushered our sleepy babies into the car and were off on our Carolina adventure

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I had planned pretty extensively,  mapping out stops  along the way, and a slue of activities once we arrived. Charleston has endless historical sites, mansion tours, surrounding plantations and the restaurants…oh the restaurants! The question of whether or not we’d be able to fit it all into 3 full days and nights wasn’t negotiable; we simply had to!

I do have to point out that I had free range when planning, as Mike will be the first to tell you he’s not a planner, but is up for anything. Having to squeeze in two agendas has never been an issue and complaining about the activity on deck never happens A perfect duo of explorative push and pull.

So, after a stop in Alexandria for a French country breakfast and another break at a dog park  in Raleigh, where the pups got to romp, chase squirrels and stretch their paws, we arrived at Mike’s sister Sara’s house…A 12 hour trip never felt better!

We dumped our stuff, walked the dogs, then headed out For some local flavor at Señor Tequilas.  Massive cervesas, margaritas and fajitas were ordered. Yum! Great salsa, spice & service. South Carolina makes a good first impression. Next stop:Total Wine, to load up on vacation thirst quenchers. Mike’s eyes lit up when he saw the rows & rows of craft beer you could buy in six pack form or a la carte…this would take awhile!

Fat Tire, Dales Deviant & Pale Ale, Ranger IPA, Westbrook IPA (made & brewed in SC!), Hop Stoopid (Lagunitas), Apita Strawberry wheat. Think that should suffice! First day in Charleston, huge success…off to bed (after a Dale’s of course!)

No sleeping in on this vacation…Up early (the joys of traveling with the dogs!) to start day 1 ofCharleston fun. The carriage tour, right in the heart of the Charleston rainbow market, would be our first stop. First things first though…breakfast! We popped into the first breakfast joint we saw, X and ordered some southern eats…biscuits & gravy, yogurt parfait and cheddar eggs on a biscuit. Deeeelicious!

Bellies full of biscuits, Mike, Sara and I hopped on the first private carriage we saw for the bargain price of $125  (a group tour runs about $25 per person, but you have to deal with another12-16 sweaty tourists….totally with it in my opinion to ride comfy!)


Our guide, Ann,  explained that the city of Charleston told them the route they’d take by pulling a lottery style ball out of the most popular routes bucket. Sara, who had been on two previous carriage tours told us she had never been on the same route, a fact I thought pretty interesting, given there is so much to see here!

Henry, Ann’s trusty stead, galloped merrily around the city while she explained the towns history, fun facts and a bit of Tom Foolery. Some funCharleston trivia:

St. Phillips Church is crooked due to earthquakes and has been rebuilt several times (the original structure was burned, then rebuilt only to be damaged in a hurricane).

Many of the beautiful houses have two front doors, one an entrance into the house one an entrance to the piazza, where if closed meant the lady of the house was ‘indisposed’ and you shouldn’t come calling. by the way, indisposed meant a few buttons undone, a petty coat or two shed, ankles exposed. These poor southern women!

We noticed some of the wood picket fences in front of the houses have brick walls under them, known as a badge of honor, for they used to be wrought iron fences that were torn off during the Civil War in an effort to aide in the confederates fight. We all know how that turned out!

Many of the larger homes have pineapple statues outside, a symbol of wealth and welcome. The wealthy women of merchants weren’t allowed to entertain while their husbands were away (another beautiful rule for the ladies!) and pineapples atop the fence post meant my husband is home from his exotic travels…come on over!

Blue porch ceilings are found throughout Charleston, to ward off ghosts of course!

After an informative ride, we’re let off and head toward the south end of Charleston, where we stumble upon the Exchange. We decide to stay for the exchange & dungeon tour, where we learned about the exposed city of Charleston, how the prison held both men & women during the revolutionary war, that the pirate Isaac Haynes was captured & spent his last night, and how the exchange served as a bustling greeting center of commerce. Really cool stuff!

Rainbow Row up next, a beautiful collage of gorgeous homes, each a different color than the next, then straight on past White Point Gardens & the Ashley river, round the South battery & to the Calhoun Mansion. This tour is not to be missed! The house, still owned by a private family, doesn’t have a square inch that’s not covered with paintings, sculptures, statues, trinkets, antiques, antique furniture…you name it, the house has it!

A quick lunch at Charleston Crab House, where we had an amazing rooftop view of the market, then home to rest, walk the dogs & clean up for the night’s dinner outing: Magnolias!

Parking can be a bit of a snafu downtown, but the restaurant had  a lot reserved for patrons heading to alone of the three sister restaurants. Perky hostess signed us in and welcomed us to the bar, where a mojito, 4:20 sweet water IPA, red wine and captain & diet were sipped until seated. A beautifully lively bar, but our table called and the hostess showed us into a gorgeous, cool back dinning room; the perfect ambiance for a celebratory evening. Impeccable food, wi e and service. Two bottles of Caymus perfectly paired with pan seared scallops served atop corn hoes cakes, caramelized bacon, cream sauce, sautéed spinach & balsamic syrup, followed by Sweet Chili rubbed Ahi Tuna with mango jalapeño salsa atop two pepperjack egg rolls & creole remoulade. That was just mine! Mike had Carolina Carpetbagger: twin fillets of beef with fried oysters, portabello mushroom bordelaise & béarnaise sauce. Phenomenal!

Post dinner, we headed to Grill 225 for a night cap, an amazing rooftop bar with a club like feel. The one caveat: they had wind blocks up, blocking the cool breeze & making the view less spectacular…just a little less. All-in-all a deliciously decadent meal!

Day 2 in Charleston began a bit slower,  with breakfast & coffee a-la home. Fueled up on breakfast burritos (thanks to Señor Tequilas leftovers) we packed up the pooches & went to James Island County park. Two huge areas for the dogs to run around in, complete with two areas to bound into the lake…aka doggies heaven!


The beautiful weather screamed beach, so after the dogs were efficiently wore out, we dropped them home, changed into suits and headed to Folly beach! the traffic, we made it there by 2:00. After finding parking, we strolled into town in search of nourishment. I had researched a few restaurants, so when we passed the Black Magic cafe, it was set. Crisp & fresh ingredients & outside seating. Done & done! My sun dried tomato wrap was stuffed with chick peas, bean sprouts, tomatoes, pesto, feta cheese & lettuce. Hit the spot! Now onto the beach, where we swam in the perfectly tempered ocean, sunned and waited for our jet skies. The ocean waves made a bumpy ride, one I was not too fond of with Mr. Speed driving, but quite enjoyable while I drove (7 miles an hour is quite respectable, thank you very much!) after the sun, surf and sand, what’s better than grillin!? Nothin at all.

After washing the beach off, homemade marinades were made & shrimp, sausage, corn & veggies were grilled to perfection.  The boys craved ice cream after the low country bbq, so Sara took us to Ye Old Ice cream  Parlor. Malts & sundaes topped us off. A perfect ending to a sun-filled day.


Day three began early…the Fort Sumter ferry left at 9:30 and we would be on it! Windy is an understatement and as we boarded I actually took of my dangling earrings for fear of mangling my face!


The sea, choppy & wild, opened up and in the distance we saw the Fort, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired. A beautiful day at sea and 30 minutes later we found ourselves on solid ground & touring Sumter. An incredible structure and history indeed and another gorgeous day, despite the earlier forecast. There’s an expression in Charleston that if you don’t like the weather, wait 30 minutes and it’ll change. Well, after the ferry ride back, it hadn’t, and a day at sea can only be followed by one thing: Carolina BBQ!

Conveniently placed on the way back to Sara’s, we hit up fiery Ron’s Home Team’s BBQ….a cool bar that serves incredible Food complete with homemade hot sauces (yes, plural!) on each table. The BBQ taco topped with jalapeño slaw & chipotle mayo left nothing to be desired…a few squirts of hot sauce & I was sold! Sweet Water 4:20 IPA helped cool our pallets.

Sufficiently BBQ’d, a nap would be the next logical step, but no time! Magnolia Plantation was the last big ticket item on my punch list, so we rallied towards the Plantation & gardens. On our way in, a nice guy pulled us aside & gave us two admittance stickers, a $30 value! Love when people surprise you with small & random acts of kindness. Mike reminded me that karma is everywhere.

First thing we were drawn to, being the water babies we are…the boat tour! Paying separate for that ($8 a piece) we toured the inlet around the massive Plantation. We spotted Egrets, blue herons, all kinds of birds and several gators! Sticky weather made the breeze on the water much needed and after docking, Mike and I headed into the shade of the gardens, where a multitude of vegetation grew, along with statues of beatifically garden goddesses, small ponds and bridges and huge trees dripping with Spanish moss.

We stumbled upon the observation deck, so climbed to the top to survey the beautiful span of marsh. A gorgeous piece of land, where I could definitely spend more time in! The days heat finally made us call it quits, so we headed back & napped before our final night out.

The last night of vacation is a magical thing…the anticipation of heading home to your own space mixed with the happiness felt in your new digs, muddled with all of the things you didn’t do. Mike and I dressed in our fancy pants clothes and headed to Hank’s Seafood, one of the  gorgeous restaurants in this beautiful city.  We could have spent a month there just eating (and that would have been ok!)

Lucky with the parking again, we walked in to have a wonderful, decadent last meal. To start we got the tuna tartare with jalapeno, shallots, lemon and herbs and a special salad, with granny apples and white parsnips.  I was truly blown away by the tartare! It was a HUGE helping of perfect tuna, served with veggie chips and a delicious mix of spice and zest. After those yummy morsels, we had a helping of clams, swimming in a heavenly white wine broth with garlic and herbs. Oh yes, we had our fill of pre-meal…now onto the main course!

Two words: Seasonal Scallops. Cooked perfectly, served with shiitake mushrooms, seasonal greens, fried mashed potatoes, ginger lime coriander vinaigrette. Amazing!  Mike got the Roast grouper with lobster risotto, which also wowed. The meal helped put the final stamp of, “we’re definitely coming back to Charleston!”

 

An amazing trip to a new city, one in which I know we’ll be back to!